Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (2010)

One from the re-watch pile…

Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (2010)

Film: As I sit here at the To Watch Pile Mansion, in my movie room, I look around and enjoy the fact that one wall is covered in blurays and DVDs, another has my vinyl soundtrack collection, the third is my TV screen and finally a big pile of books all about film, more specifically, horror, cult and sci-fi films. To say that I am a movie fan is a slight understatement: I simply LOVE cinema!

One thing that has always fascinated me was the Video Nasty scare in the UK. I first heard the term ‘video nasty’ as a kid when it was mentioned on an episode of The Young Ones, a hilarious 80s UK comedy series starring Ade Edmondson, Rick Mayall and Nigel Planer.

If you haven’t heard of this show, for me and my friends in high school, it was our Simpsons: funny and infinitely quotable. I don’t necessarily suggest everyone needs to see it as I’m not sure if a new, younger audience would appreciate it.

Anyway, this term fascinated me and I had read about it in everything from magazines like Fangoria, Samhain and Deep Red, but it didn’t seem to be something we experienced here in Australia as I worked in a video shop when I was about 15, and things like Evil Dead, and Lucio Fulci films were readily available to watch, perhaps cut in various ways, but still there to hire.

Anyway, to get the full deal on what the Video Nasty was about, I had to glean information from various sources, but now, this wonderful documentary exists, directed by Jake West, whose name you might know from films such as Doghouse and Evil Aliens.

West has managed to get so many interviews with both sides of the argument that you really get a complete picture of what was going on both socially and politically in the UK at the time, and whilst it does come from a director of horror’s hands, it’s surprisingly balanced, but even the least politically-motivated viewer will see that the hands of oppressive moral majority were heavy and unreasonable, bordering on WW2 book-burning and Frederick Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent’s almost destruction of the comics industry in the US.

In addition to the incredibly informative amount of experts giving their opinions and recounting their tales, we also have a bucketload of bloody clips taken from the films in question.

I can’t express how enjoyable and informative this documentary is. It completely recounts the whole period, and even has a sequel: Video Nasties: Draconian Days which looks inside the censorship board in the UK. Both are must-sees for horror movie fans.

Score: ****1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the UK DVD, which runs for 72 minutes approximately. It is presented in a 1.78:1 image of varying degrees of quality (to express points the director has deliberately degraded the film at times to visually explain how repeatedly copies VHS eventually looked) and the sound is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, with similar eff ts performed on it to audibly explain VHS sound. It doesn’t, however, ever become unwatchable or inaudible.

Score: ****1/2

Extras: Extras… EXTRAS? How about two full discs of extras?!?

Disc 1: Video Ident-a-Thon is a selection of the video distribution companies of the time idents played at the beginning of every tape… and there is almost a FULL HOUR of them!

Bonus Gallery has a selection of VHS covers played as a slide show with a soundtrack.

Also available has trailers for other DVDs available from Nucleus films, including The Playgirls and the Vampire, Night of the Bloody Apes, Cannibal Girls, Teaserama, Varietease, Ghost Story, Grindhouse Trailer Classics 2, Bloodbath at the House of Death, Grindhouse Trailer Classics 1, Death Ship, Fausto 5.0, Gwendoline, The Ugliest Woman in the World, and Between Your Legs. That’s not to mention trailers for titles from Naughty Films such as Fantasm, Fantasm Comes Again, The Good Little Girls, Justine’s Hot Nights, Scandalous Photos, Dressage and Education Anglaise.

Disc 2: This disc has the trailers for 39 videos which became the actual Video Nasties. These trailers can be watched either with or without title cards, showing the release dates and other information, followed by introductions from Emily Booth, Kim Newman, Alan Jones (the UK one, not ‘ours’)and Stephen Thrower, all who were featured in the main documentary.

This disc also has another brief slideshow of the VHS covers of the 39 banned films, again with a score played over the top.

Disc 3: This disc is similar content to disc 2, but instead this has the 33 films that didn’t permanently achieve the Video Nasty status, or as they are called here ‘The Dropped 33’. This again has introductions from subjects from the documentary like Emily Booth, Dr. Patricia MacCormack, Alan Jones, Marc Morris, Allan Bryce, Xavier Mendik, Brad Stevens, Kim Newman and Stephen Thrower.

This disc also has a slideshow similar to disc 2,but of the Dropped 33.

Score: *****

WISIA: I’ve already watched it a 100 times and I’ll probably watch it a 100 more.

Ratman (1988)

Ratman (1988)

Film: Sometimes, being a B movie fan is like trying to find your wife’s wedding ring after she dropped it in a septic tank: you must wade through a lot of shit to find a gem. Discovering that gem is a treat, but generally you’ll find yourself with a large handful of excrement. Unfortunately, Ratman is not a gem, but instead one of those piles of shit one more than often finds, and not just any piece of excrement either. No, Ratman is a steaming fresh pile of peanut-encrusted beer bog.

Spoiler alert: it’s that bad.

Ratman, also known in Italian as Quella Villa in Fondo al Parco (The Village by the Park? Something like that) was directed by Giuliano Carnimeo, who also directed The Case of the Bloody Iris, and is written by Dardarno Sacchetti who gave us Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, City of the Living Dead and House by the Cemetery, along with many other classics of Italian horror. Honestly, I don’t know what either of them was thinking when they made this – and that goes for star David Warbeck as well. Surely times never got that lean!!

Set on a small island, Ratman starts with a professor proudly proclaiming that he should win the Nobel Prize for science after he creates a monster he calls ‘Mousey’ (played by tiny actor Nelson De La Rosa. Seriously, this guy is so small even Verne Troyer could pick on him), a rat/monkey hybrid. The problem with Mousey is that he has also developed poisonous teeth and claws, which will kill a man in no time at all.

Of course, Mousey escapes and starts a half pint reign of terror!

Mousey starts by killing a model, and her sister is called to the island to identify the body. Upon arrival she meets an author, and they soon become chums and visit the morgue together only to find the girl is not her sister, and that her sister has made a trip into the forest on another photo shoot, and the two choose to investigate… but what they find is a trail of death!!!!!

I really can’t stress enough what a piece of crap this film is, and its directorial and writing genealogy, with Sacchetti and Warbeck’s involvement specifically, makes it even more disappointing.

I know that as a B movie fan this is one of those ‘gems’ I am supposed to like, but I just found it to be crap, and barely watchable. Of what I have seen from Shameless so far, I have enjoyed this the least. Only purchase this if you really want a full set of Shameless’s collection. I will say though, that this film has the best tagline ever: “He’s the critter from the shitter”. Pure comedy.

Score: *

Format: In a decent act for such a film, Shameless have presented this in 16×9 anamorphic widescreen, but the image is terrible. Unfortunately, it is foggy and laden with film artefacts, but I guess that heightens the sleaziness of the proceedings, so perhaps that adds atmosphere? I didn’t feel that at all though. The audio is presented in English mono and the best I can say about it is that you can hear what people are saying. It performs the function that is required of it. To give Shameless credit though, they do apologise for the poor audio on David Warbeck’s character at times due to multiple audio sources.

Score: **

Extras: Nothing but trailer for Ratman and other Shameless titles here: The Frightened Woman, My Dear Killer, Baba Yaga, The Black Cat, The New York Ripper and Manhattan Baby. Shameless do offer multiple covers on this disc, which is something I always find to be quite cool, one of which is a funny but poorly executed Jaws piss-take. The other looks to be original video art, which is nice, but not at all relevant. then again, what video art ever was?

Score: **

WISIA: No. just no.

The Beyond (1981)

One from the re watch pile…

The Beyond (1981)

Film: When I was a teen, my first job was manning the counter of a small video shop in the southern suburbs of Sydney, and let me tell you, I loved that job. Every Sunday I worked from 12 until 4 pm without fail, and I never asked for a day off in the entire time I worked there I would show up at twelve, unwrap my sandwich and stick The Beyond (I think it was a Palace Explosive tape) into the in store player. For that 90 odd minutes, no one was allowed to rent that tape. They could come back after I had finished watching it, but until then, it was verboten (if you are interested, the second feature was always Dawn of the Dead, which they let me keep when the shop closed down, unfortunately, The Beyond had gone missing, so I couldn’t take that as well).

The Beyond is a film by Lucio Fulci, the other Godfather of Gore and was one of the films that was banned in the UK’s ‘video nasty’ witch hunts.

This film is a part of the Fulci’s unofficial zombie trilogy, also known as the Gates of Hell trilogy, which also includes House by the Cemetery and City of the Living Dead, and as far as this reviewer is concerned, isn’t just the best of these films, but is the best of his career, even though the plot line is confusing and open to the individual’s  interpretation, and at times the effects are somewhat lacking in realism. Unfortunately, the sharpness of the Blu-ray image  is even less forgiving and a few of those effects are even less convincing.

Onto the story…

The Beyond opens in Louisiana in 1927, where a mobs of local townsfolk are making their way to the 7 Doors Hotel, where an artist named Schweik (Antoine Saint-John) is painting a rather disturbing picture that depicts the barren-ness of Hell while a copy of the mysterious Book of Eibon sits close-by. The townsfolk accuse him of witchcraft, which he claims was to keep a gate to Hell that exists within the hotel shut, but the mob ignore his cries, nail him to a wall, and cover him in quicklime.

Many years later, a young women named Liza (Catriona MacColl) inherits the hotel from her uncle, and almost as soon as she starts work on renovations, the trouble begins. First a painter falls from a scaffolding from which he should never have fallen, and soon after a plumber is butchered in the flooded basement, after which Liza strikes up a friendship with a local doctor, John (David Warbeck). A strange girl Emily (Sarah Fuller aka Cinzia Moreale) warns Liza that the work she is doing on the hotel is dangerous, but Liza chooses to ignore her, even though she is spooked by her words, and the accidents that have happened.  Strange things happen around room 36 as well (get it? 3 x 6…666) which is the room Schweik was dragged from to his death, and Liza thinks she sees both the body of Schweik and the Book of Eibon as well, but once John turns up, it appears to be a fantasy.

More and more deaths occur and it would appear that Liza has accidentally reopened the gate to Hell.  Can Liza find a way to close the Gate… will she even bother?

The fact that the film is so open to the watcher’s interpretation is the main thing I like about The Beyond. Whilst ‘regular’ film goers probably would have trouble with unconvincing special effects and gore, horror fans can (and in my experience, will) talk for hours about the meanings behind the film, and what the actual plotline is! It is dreamlike and nightmarish, and has this feel of a real horror film, one which I think many horror filmmakers no longer attempt to match as perhaps today’s movie goer requires more literal storytelling.

The Beyond has some spectacular gore scenes that may look a little fake but are executed with gusto! In this film Fulci has taken special attention to the face, and it’s parts, and celebrates their destruction in a way that will repulse most, but will inspire a “Cool!” from those who like it.

This film also has a great legacy of Italian and international horror stars: Catriona (Catherine) MacColl who also starred in House by the Cemetery and City of the Living Dead, David Warbeck of The Black Cat and Hunters of the Golden Cobra, Cincia Moreale from Buio Omega and The Stendahl Sydrome, Antoine Saint-John of The Killer Must Kill Again and A Fistful of Dynamite, Giampaolo (sic) Saccarola of Tenebrae and the House By the Cemetery and Veronica Lazar from Inferno and Last Tango in Paris.

Score: *****

Format: Those of you who wander the wild land of the internet will know of the initial problem that scarred this release, that is, the incorrect black and white instead of sepia toned opening. When I purchased this disc, I received one of these flawed copies, but after contacting the people at Arrow Films, I received a corrected version within a week, which considering I am in Australia and they are in the UK, is quite commendable. I should point out that according to Arrow films, this error was on the first batch released, so all subsequent releases should be the sepia version.

The film is presented in an anamorphic 2.35:1 image that’s looks pretty special, especially when you consider the age of the film. Really the only bad thing about this film is that occasionally in some of the darker sequences there is a small amount of film speckling, which is completely excusable. The amazing soundtrack is presented in  5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with the options for either an English or Italian mono track for the purists as well. I am not one of those purists so I instead enjoyed the 5.1 only, and found it to be incredible.

Score: *****

Extras: There is HEAPS of extra features on this 2 discer!

Disc 1:

Before the film starts, Cinzia Moreale introduces the film, and her broken English is bound to bring a smile to your face.

Aka Sarah Keller: Cinzia Moreale Remembers The Beyond  is a nice look back by the actress who portrayed Emily in the film. She discusses her career and her work on this film, all with great poise, I must add.

The Beyond Q & A: Cartriona Maccoll is a fairly informative question session with MacColl which took place after a screening of the film. Unfortunately this is marred by two things; the first is the fact that some scrotum in the audience starts to eat a bag of chips, making crinkling noises all through the piece, the second is the fact that the film notes it with a subtitle referring to it. It is noted several times through the piece, and really the annoying bastard only needed to be pointed out once, as I found the subtitle detracted from what MacColl had to say.

There are also two commentaries on this disc. The first is an older commentary found on previous laserdisc and DVD releases by David Warbeck and MacColl, recorded before Warbeck died in 1997. It is a charming and friendly commentary that has some dubious recollections from the two. The second is with Antonella Fulci and hosted by Calum Waddell, which is a fascinating and personal look at Fulci’s work by his daughter.

Disc 2:

Beyond Italy: Louis Fuller And The Seven Doors Of Death is an absolutely brilliant feature which has the president of Aquarius Films, Terry Levene talk about his career in exploitation films, and what was done to sell Italian films to the states. Those interested in the whole 42nd Street/ Grindhouse thing will find this fascinating, and detractors of Quentin Tarantino will appreciate his comments as well.

One Step Beyond: Catriona Maccoll Remembers A Spaghetti Splatter Classic is recollection from MacColl about her time filming The Beyond and her own career. As with all these sorts of ‘complete’ set of extras, some stories do overlap with disc 1’s Q & A and her commentary with Warbeck, but she is so charming it is easily overlooked.

Butcher Baker Zombiemaker: The Living Dead Legacy Of Gianetto De Rossi looks at the work of special effects artist De Rossi through his own eyes. Through a gravel voice that would make Lawrence Tierney sound like Shirley Temple in comparison, he discusses all the joys and woes of pre-CGI splatter filmmaking.

Fulci Flashbacks: Reflections On Italy’s Leading Paura Protagonist is a series of fond (sometimes) recollections of Fulci and his career from his associates and family.

Alternative Pre-Credit Sequence is just that! An alternative opening of the film, but with one of it’s many alternative titles. Interestingly, this one features a full colour version of the sepia opening of the usual release!!

There is also the International Theatrical Trailer.

The extras don’t just stop at what’s on the two discs either, with Arrow presenting the film in a box that contains a choice of four different covers, (The 7 Doors fo Death, the original title of L’aldila (or more correctly, according to the onscreen title ‘…E Tu Vivrai Nel Terrore! L’Aldila’ translated as ‘..And thou shalt live in terror! The Afterlife’.) or even Die Geisterstadt der Zombies (in English ‘The Ghost-town of the Zombies’), along with a two sided poster and a booklet with two articles by English horror journalist Calem Waddell and an introduction to The Beyond by Cabin Fever director, Eli Roth.

Since this edition was released, and pictured above, there has also been a steelbook version of the film with some amazing new art!

Score: *****

WISIA: I flat out love this film, it was a favourite when I was a kid, I loved it when I first grabbed it on DVD, and this BD version makes me simply burst with excitement. Arrow films have created a master film disc that is a suburb addition to any Blu-ray collection. Grab it now!

Tenebrae (1982)

One from the very top of the rewatch pile…

Tenebrae (1982)

The cover of my well worn Arrow edition of Tenebrae.

Film:

In 1929, Italian publishing company Mondadori started publishing a series of crime books that had garish yellow covers. It is from here that the Italian thriller/ horror film gets its name: giallo, the Italian word for yellow. The films from the early sixties started as adaptation of these early thrillers, but eventually became a genre of their own. The main characteristics of the giallo film take elements from detective stories and slasher films, with operatic elements and a large dose of blood, gore, violence and nudity. While many films from Italian directors can come under the ‘giallo’ title, the masters are truly Mario Bava and Dario Argento. Dario Argento, son of producer Salvatore Argento, began his career as a writer for a film journal, before heading into screen writing. He worked for Sergio Leone on such films as Once Upon Time in the West before heading into his own movies, thrillers that kept in mind his childhood love of Italian folk lore, the tales of the Brothers Grimm, but most of all, the writings of Edgar Allen Poe. Argento is responsible for some of the greatest horror films ever: Deep Red, Suspiria, and this one -Tenebrae.

Author Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) has come to Rome to promote his latest novel, titled Tenebrae. His arrival is marred, however, by a series of killings that copy those in his novel. The police, Detective Germani (Giuliano Gemma) and Detective Altieri (Carols Stagnaro) are frustrated by the murderer, who is directly referencing Neal by leaving pages from his novel at the crime scenes.

Anthony Franciosa asks Daria Niccolodi how one can star in more Argento films.

Neal, along with his agent, Bullmer (John Saxon), his assistant, Anne (Daria Niccolodi)and his other employees begin their own investigation to uncover the identity of the killer…but what Neal doesn’t realise is that someone, an ex-lover, Jane (Veronica Lario) is in pursuit of him, but what is HER connections to killing? Does she even HAVE a connection?

John Saxon – legend.

Tenebrae is the film that saw Argento return to traditional giallo after his sojourn into the supernatural with his previous two films Suspiria and Inferno, two chapters of his so called (and as of early 2006 unfinished) ‘Three Mothers’ trilogy and then right back into it with his next film Phenomena. With its rich exterior shots of some exquisite Italian locations, and an unusually bright palette for a horror film…a lot of the murders take place in broad daylight, Tenebrae is a pleasure to watch. Some really great performances by the actors, and some great bloody effects, particularly a brilliant axe murder.

I must admit that Tenebrae is one of those ‘perfect storm’ horror movies for me. My favourite director, an interesting story, a great soundtrack, a big dash of violence, John Saxon and beautiful Italian women. I honestly think there is only one horror film that is better than this one and that is Re-animator.

Score: *****

The menu for the Arrow Bluray Of Tenebrae.

Format: This film was reviewed with the Arrow Video multi-region Bluray release from 2011, which runs for approximately 101 minutes. It is presented in a grainy, but clear 1.85:1 and a good mono audio track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Some amazing extras on this disc, but you’d expect nothing less from Arrow! Before the disc, though, the package contains four options for the cover of the disc, a poster of the new disc art and a booklet about the film written by Alan Jones.

There are two commentaries on this disc, both which are super interesting. The first is with horror journalism legends Kim Newman and Alan Jones, and the other is with screenwriter Thomas Rostock.

Screaming Queen! Daria Niccolodi Remembers Tenebrae is an interesting interview where she talks about her character in this film, and her history in cinema and with Argento.

The Unsane World Of Tenebrae: An Interview With Dario Argento where he talks about his career and Tenebrae.

A composition for Carnage: Claudio Simonetti on Tenebrae sees the lead player in the band Goblin and composer (as well as hero of mine) Claudio Simonetti discuss his work on this film and his career.

Goblin: Tenebrae and Phenomena Live from the Glasgow Arches is footage from 2011 of Claudio Simonetti and New Goblin playing live. I admit I caught them in Sydney in 2015 so seeing this brought back fond memories.

Trailer is, well, the trailer for the film.

Score: *****

WISIA: Tenebrae is one of my favourite films of all time so it gets regularly rewatched, and it should be by you, too!

Sometimes, guests arrive when you are still getting ready.

Baron Blood aka Gli Orrori Del Castello Di Norimburga (1972)

One from the re watch pile…

Baron Blood aka Gli Orrori Del Castello Di Norimburga (1972)

Film: I have to preface this review with a short story that I have told to many people, but it particularly refers to this film and my affection for it. You see, Baron Blood was probably the last film to really scare me… not because the film is particularly scary, but instead because of the situation that I found myself in after it.

As a early teenager, I was lucky enough to see this at a little independent cinema known as the Miranda Forum, in Miranda, NSW. The forum did stacks of double features and I was lucky enough to see this film, under the guise of The Torture Chamber Of Baron Blood with another horror film you MAY have heard of called An American Werewolf in London.

The experience of seeing the films was amazing, and after it finished it, my friends were all picked up by their parents and it left me to walk the 5km trip home alone, at about midnight, during a blackout that was effecting the street lights.

Sufficed to say, I ran like a rat up a drainpipe.

Due to this, Baron Blood sits in my brain as a particularly scary film… and let’s just say that the blonde-haired and green-eyed appearance of Elle Sommer set a stamp in my mind that would be permanent, and I have always been mainly attracted to that type.

Much later, after becoming a fan of the work of Mario Bava, whom I discovered through my love of Dario Argento’s body of work, I realised this was in actual fact a Bava film, from a script written by him, Willibard Eser and Vincent Fotre. Even at such a young age I must have instinctively been able to spot great talent!

Anyhow, Baron Blood tells of Peter Kleist (Antonio Cantafora), a young man who has travelled to Austria to see his family’s castle and there he meets the sexy… I’m not sure what she does actually… Eva Arnold (Elke Sommer) and the two of them have an instant attraction.

Peter convinces Eva, as a joke, to perform a ritual that he found written on a parchment discovered at a relatives house to see what happens, and unfortunately for them, and the many victims, it brings the evil legendary Baron Otto Von Kleist (Joseph Cotton) back from the dead, ready to reclaim his castle and murder everyone who gets in his way!

During the ritual, the ceremonial winds… you know the ones, every GOOD evil ritual has them… blows the parchment into the fire, the parchment containing the words to reverse the spell! Without that information, how will our lovestruck heroes survive?

Mario Bava is well known as one of the greatest Italian filmmakers ever, and he has an incredible fluid style with occasionally an almost cartoonish palette which creates a greater sense of depth within his images. His usual extreme colors aren’t present in this film, but it’s a beautiful film nevertheless, and a great example of modern gothic.

The film has a great cast too. Joseph Cotten from The Third Man, Massimo Girotti from Last Tango in Paris, Antonio Cantafora from Demons 2, Elke Sommer from A Shot in the Dark and even Nicoletta Elmi, an child actress seen in many Italian horror films, from Bay of Blood, to The Night Child and Demons.

This film is a particular interesting piece of Bava’s history too as it isn’t filmed in his native Italy, and instead in Vienna. This is interesting as Bava notoriously hated to travel and rarely filmed away from home.

It may be for strange reasons but I love this film, it’s easily one of my favourite Bava films and is well worth a watch, even if you don’t have to walk home in the dark after seeing it.

Score: ****1/2

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was on Arrow Video’s Region B Bluray/ DVD combo pack. The film, on the Bluray, is presented with a 1.78:1 image with a 2.0 Mono and both are fine considering the age of the film and the restoration has brought it back beautifully.

Score: ****

Extras: Oh, boy do we have some extras.

First, there are actually three different versions of the film available to watch on the disc: the ‘export version’, the AIP version and the original Italian version, aka The Horror Of Nuremberg Castle. Being able to watch the film in these three different formats is quite interesting, even though the story doesn’t change. Bare in mind though, the American International Pictures (AIP) version has had a solid 7 minutes cut from it and has a far less interesting musical track accompanying (it’s not bad, just a little horror-movie generic). The entire contents of the Bluray are also presented on two accompanying DVDs as well!

There is an audio commentary by Tim Lucas, the author of Mario Bava: All The Colors of The Dark (a seriously detailed look at Mario Bava’s history) and Video Watchdog editor, which really dissects the film both in its actual story, its place in Bava’s filmography and in Italian cinema in general. This is on the export version of the film.

Introduction by Alan Jones sees respected UK movie expert Alan Jones (not the Australian one) briefly introduce the film and its history.

There are both English and Italian trailers for the film, and some radio spots too.

Bava at Work is a series of photos of Bava making a bunch of different films. There is some interesting shots, but stills belong either in books, or in moonshiner’s backyards.

Ruggero Deodato Interview is a look at the golden age of Italian horror through the eyes of Cannibal Holocaust director Deodato. He has some amusing anecdotes and recollections of Bava and the period.

Also in this package is a booklet with an essay by film critic James Oliver, and details of the restoration process as well. The booklet is illustrated throughout.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s a permanent nostalgic favourite so it gets a lot of respins at the To Watch Pile Estate.

Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

One from the re watch pile…

Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

Film: As regular reading of the To Watch Pile may guess, I much prefer a more human villain in my movies than a supernatural one, mainly because I actually don’t believe in ghosts and ghouls and all that sort of stuff. I admit I do like zombie films, but there is a human horror to them with the loss of identity I suppose.

Anyway, cannibal films are are staple of the human horror film, and for me, and probably a lot of other horror film fans, the Hungry Trinity would be Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, and this film, Antonio Margheriti’s Apocalypse Domani, aka Invasion of the Flesh Hunters, aka Virus aka Cannibal Apocalypse. Margheriti, also known as the director of Yor: Hunter from the Future directed this film under his alias Anthony M. Dawson from a script co-written by him and Jimmy Gould aka Dardano Sacchetti, who is probably best known for 1990: The Bronx Warriors.

Cannibal Holocaust tells of Viet Nam vet Hopper (John Saxon) who is contacted by a buddy from the war, Charlie Bukowski (John Morgan aka Giovanni Lombardo Radice) who is suffering quite badly from a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which reminds him of acts of cannibalism he committed in a POW camp.

Charlie has attacked a young lady in a cinema and begs Hopper to get him out of town, but it would appear that Charlie’s acts of cannibalism aren’t a learnt trait, but instead appear to be some kind of transmittable disease which causes others to have a lust for human flesh.

Will Hopper successfully get Charlie out of the city, or will their needs outweigh their survival…

I first saw this movie on VHS in the eighties when I worked at a video shop in Sydney as a kid and fell in love with it. Along with The Never Dead (aka Phantasm), Dawn of the Dead, Re-Animator and The Beyond, it was one of my most regularly watched horror films. I like those other cannibal films I mentioned earlier, but I think because I saw this film first it set a standard that the others don’t reach.

… and it’s got John Saxon and John Morghen in it, for goodness’ sake: how could a Viet Nam vey Cannibal film get any better than that?!?

Score: ****1/2

Format: This Umbrella Entertainment NTSC DVD release of the film runs for approximately 93 minutes and is presented in an average 1.77:1 image with a functional mono audio track.

Score: **

Extras: There’s a mixed bag of extras on this disc.

Apocalypse in the Streets is a revisit of the exterior locations of the film told in a stiles and honestly not very well edited way. It is however interesting to see that some of the locations still look the same so many years later.

There is a European and a Japanese trailer for the film.

Alternate US Opening Sequence is just what the name suggests, but the one intact with the film is far better and uses less stock footage from Viet Nam.

Poster and Stills Gallery is a selection of posters and promotional material material from the film and a bunch of behind the scenes pics.

The Butchering of Cannibal Apocalypse Essay discusses the editing of the film in its various releases throughout the world.

Score: ***

WISIA: It is my favourite Cannibal film so of COURSE it’ll get looked at again and again!

Burial Ground (1981) Review


One from the re watch pile…
Burial Ground aka Le Notti Del Terrore (1981)

The 88 Films Bluray cover for Burial Ground


Film: I didn’t get to see all the 80s horror I now love in the 80s, some of it I only discovered since this more permissive age of DVD and Bluray where so many films, previously cut to death or not released at all in Australia, or perhaps were part of the American MPAA slash fest, or nailed to the wall as a Video Nasty in the UK. I am especially thankful to the Australian company Umbrella for giving me an opportunity to see things I never thought i’d see, or things I didn’t even knew existed!

Several years ago Umbrella came up with the concept of releasing several films with an old school E.C. Comics styled cover and amongst those releases was this film, Andrea Bianchi’s Burial Ground The Nights of Terror, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Burial Ground: Peter Bark!!


Burial Ground tells of three oversexed couples, and one twenty seven year old man made up to look like a child (Peter Bark), who visit an old building in the country owned by one of the gentlemen. What they don’t realise is that a nutty professor who looks like Rasputin, has been researching the Etruscan history of the house and has accidentally unleashed a small-ish legion of the undead!

Will this unpleasant bunch of boosh-wah morons survive the undead as they try to get into the house; will they be able to survive… the Night of Terror?!?

It’s a strange film insomuch as it has some below-average acting, bizarre casting, odd underlying themes of incest, sleazy men with hot girlfriends and blatant product placement, but then it has some beautiful surrounds, gore-a-plenty and stupidly awesome zombie make-up… seriously, so-bad-it’s-good nails the description in this case.

Burial Ground: anyone else suddenly feel like a J&B Scotch?


It probably isn’t a film that deserves much care taken with it, but the beautiful thing is how much care HAS been taken with this release! The image is amazingly sharp and obviously a lot of time was taken to clean it up, bravo to 88 Films in that case.

Score: ***1/2

Burial Ground 88 Films bluray menu


Format: This film was reviewed with the UK company 88 Films bluray edition from their ‘Italian Collection, this being number 14 in the set. It was remastered for bluray and looks great, presented in 1.66:1 with an equally nicely remastered 2.0 audio track in English, and an 2.0 Italian audio with English subtitles which is also excellent. 

Score: ****

Extras: There’s a nice bunch of extras on this disc:

A trailer and some audioless deleted scenes, but the funky soundtrack makes up for it. I can’t make a comment on whether or not these scenes are necessary as without the audio it makes them somewhat difficult to read, and ultimately redundant. One can’t have too much Peter Bark though, can you?

‘WTF’ an Interview with Mikel Coven looks at the films of Andrea Bianchi through the eyes of film historian Mikel Coven. It’s interesting and a great overlook of Bianchi’s output, even though Coven doesn’t seem to be a fan of his… or is he?

Also we have a trailer for Zombi Holocaust.

We also have a commentary on the film by John Martin, hosted by High Rising Productions Calum Waddell which takes a fun look at Bianchi history and the production of this film. It’s told, obviously, from a third party source, but it’s funny and interesting, and the two hosts clearly enjoy the,selves.

One last interesting thing, which I have decided to count as an extra, is there is the opportunity to watch this film in a ’35mm Grindhouse’ version, which is another way of saying ‘old VHS’ as there is heaps of static both on screen and on the soundtrack; so many snap, crackles and pops you’ll feel like a bowl of cereal by the time it finishes.

Also, this version comes with a reservable sleeve, an art card and a booklet with an article about the film by Calum Waddell and a small commentary about the film’ s transfer for bluray.

Score: ****

WISIA: I dig it and find it compelling due to its sleaziness and flat out weirdo-ness, you might too, and that is what will make it a re-watcher!

Burial Ground: it’s a zombie!!!

Summer vs Zombruary: Zombie Flesh-Eaters (1979) Review


This film serves a double purpose. It is the first of February, the final month of the Australian summer, and what better way to spend your final month of summer than on a beautiful island, with clear waters to sail upon, and the undead who wish for your destruction. Also, this is the first review of the To Watch Pile’s Zombruary: a whole month of nothing but reviews of zombie films!
One from the re watch pile…
Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)

Zombie Flesh-eaters: The Arrow Bluray steelbook… unfortunately mine is battle damaged!


Film: I love Lucio Fulci films as they appeal to all the things I love about horror: the disturbing tale, the gore, the nudity, the violence, and especially in Fulci’s case, the sheer oddball-ness of it, or as ‘proper’ educated film critics may put it, his use of surrealism to convey the supernatural.

But I’m just some dude who likes horror movies, so I probably wouldn’t say that!

An abandoned ship enters New York Harbour with a soul occupant who attached a harbour police officer before being shot, and knocked off board. The owner of the boat’s daughter, Anne (Tisa Farrow) is notified of the murder and decides to sneak onboard to see if she can what happened to her missing father, who did not return with the vessel.

Zombie Flesh-eaters: Ian McCulloch and Tisa Farrow using the 70s version of a mobile phone.


When she sneaks onboard, which is being guarded by the NYPD, she meets reporter Peter West (Ian McCulloch) who is looking for a story, and the pair of them quickly team up to back track her father’s movements to find where he has been, and what may have happened to him. They charter a boat owned by Brian Hull (Al Cliver) and his lovely girlfriend, Susan Barrett (Auretta Gay) and make their way to the island of Matul.

…but what they find is a seemingly mad doctor, Dr Menard (Richard Johnson) fighting against the undead!!! Will they find out what happened to Anne’s father? Will all of them escape the island alive? Is this the beginning of some kind of zombie holocaust; some kind of dawn of the dead?

This isn’t my favourite Fulci film: The Beyond has that honour, but instead this still sits high on the cool list for me. 

First up it’s cool that a zombie film of this period actually has a reason for the dead coming back and it’s not just some kind of facility for cinema to tell us about ourselves. I love the fact it’s just a film about zombies, and not ‘consumerism’ or whatever.

Then its just the flat out insanity of some of the scenes: the zombies aren’t freshly dead like in Dawn of the Dead, they look almost mummified and have a real creepy texture about them. Except for one, the one that fights the shark, near the basically naked Audretta Gay in a g-banger and a scuba tank.

Zombie Flesh-eaters: surf ‘n’ turf


Finally, the gore is just so fantastically over the top one can’t help but just marvel at it, I mean, it’s not extraordinarily realistic, but even to attempt some of the ideas in a world of practical effects is absolutely awe inspiring. Even going back around to the zombie versus shark sequence, one can’t help but marvel at the job.

Basically, this movie is awesome. Get it, watch it, love it!

Score: *****

Zombie Flesh-eaters Bluray menu screen


Format: The film is presented in a really nice 2.35:1 restoration with a choice of two excellent audio tracks, English or Italian, in Dolby Digital 2.0. It’s never looked at good as this, for certain!

Score:****

Extras: Not sure if it’s an extra or not, but there is the opportunity to watch this film as either Zombie Flesh-Eaters, Zombie or Zombi 2. Which ever one you pick, it’s introduced by Ian McCulloch, and it’s really just a change in the title card and nothing else. Is that an extra? I’m not sure, but I thought it bore mentioning!

Also the release I have is a pretty fancy steelbook with some cool original art, and the packaging contains an excellent booklet with articles by Stephen Thrower, Calum Waddell and Craig Lapper, photos of the original script with comments by Jay Slater, Fulci’s CV and a full cast and crew list, all fully illustrated.

Outside of that it’s an Italian smorgasbord of extras. This disc treats us to two commentaries, one with Elisa Briganti who co-wrote the film with her husband Dardano Sancchetti and the other with U.K. horror journalists Stephen Thrower (writer of Nightmare USA) and Alan Jones (writer of Dario Argento: The Man, The Myth and The Magic). Both are fascinating, with Briganti’s being a fantastic look at the making of the film and the Thrower/ Jones one is a fantastic retrospective from two movie journalists, and fans, with whom I have a lot of respect.

Next we have a documentary called From Romero to Rome: The Rise and Fall of the Italian Horror Film. Starting at Night of the Living Dead, but with reflections upon older ‘zombie’ films, it looks at the Italian output in reference to Romero’s output. It’s a great look at zombie films for zombie fans.

There is a heap of trailers and advertising material here, with a U.S. trailer, the Vipco trailer, 2 TV trailers and some radio spots.

Then we have a second disc of just extras!

The first on this disc is called Aliens, Cannibals and Zombies: A Trilogy of Italian Terror which sees Ian McCulloch discuss his acting career.

Zombie Flesh-Eaters: From Script to Screen sees doco director Calum Waddell totally nerd-out (and rightly so!) at an original copy of the script with Dardano Sacchetti.

Music for a Flesh Feast is a Q and A with Fabio Frizzi which is pretty interesting look at how a composer approaches a film.

The Meat-munching Movies of Gino De Rossi is a special effects doco featuring the work of Italian special effects artist De Rossi.

Score: *****

WISIA: I couldn’t actually accurately tell you just how many times I have watched this film, it’s awesome!

Zombie Flesh-eaters: here’s worms in ya eye!

Top Sensation (1969) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Top Sensation aka The Seducers (1969)


Film: Shameless Screen Entertainment have to be given credit for releasing some movies that most companies would never even give a sly sideways look at. This film, aka The Seducers is probably one of those films… I can’t really see Disney or Sony whipping this out amongst their cheery chick flicks, sad message-filled animated tear-jerkers and rom coms!

This film was written and directed by Ottavio Alessi, who gave us the films Emanuelle in America and Emmanuelle in Bangkok, which should be a fairly big clue as to what to expect with this film. It was co-written by Nelda Minucci, whom has no other cinematic credits and Lorenzo Riciardi, who did a few bits and pieces but is really only known for directing 1961’s Venera Creola.

Ok, so buckle up for this story!


Mudy (Maud Belleroche) wants her clearly brain damaged son, Tony (Ruggero Miti) to lose his virginity, so she invites her friends of loose morals, married couple Aldo (Maurizio Bonuglia)and Paola (Rosalba Neri) and whore Ulla (Edwige Fenech) on a sailing boat trip to help him with his ‘problem’.

Unfortunately, their boat gets stuck on a sandbar and they attempt to get help from the goat farmers on the island close by, engaging in various disturbing sexual adventures here and there, but Tony is quite taken by the farmer’s wife Beba (Eva Thulin) and when Aldo spots this he starts machinations to get her to pop his cherry, which include kidnap.

This of course leads to further crimes on their cruise of doom….


This is when of those times that even though a film may not be very good, at least someone has gone to the trouble of restoring it to their best efforts. I would rather see a film, no matter how bad, than think it may have been lost forever.

To that point, having a film with both Edwige Fenech and Rosalba Neri restored isn’t a bad thing in the slightest.

*sigh* Edwige….

This would definitely make a disturbed double feature with Nico Mastorakis’ Island of Death, though that film is far superior… Yeah, that’s right: I’m saying that Island of Death is BETTER than something else! Over and above any issues with the actual restoration, the problem with this film is the film itself. Sure there is some great footage of Fenech, Neri and Thulin ever so slightly in states of undress, and even some of the scenery is beautiful, but the story isn’t compelling, the ending is flat and some of the acting is overblown and annoying.

The real difficult thing for me is I really like to see cruel people punished at the end of films, and there doesn’t seem to be any come uppence in this film, which would be OK if it attempted to be a dark, disturbed film, but it doesn’t come across as that either, possibly due to the performances being almost pantomime, but also due to the summery, holiday environment.

Basically, one shouldn’t attempt to sell a film on the basis that one of the female characters gets cunnalingus from a goat.

Score: **


Format: It’s difficult to judge this film too harshly on its quality as it is a rebuild of a film from 1969 that Shameless had done of the total film from a variety of sources, but I have to report honestly. This release goes for 91 minutes and the visuals, presented in 1.33:1 is covered in various artefacts and hairs and isn’t very sharp! The sound comes in Dolby Digital 2.0 and switches with no warning from English to Italian (with English subtitles) throughout. I guess you don’t want a warning, as that may make the film a bit stuttered, and you do eventually get used to it, to the point you don’t even really notice it at all!

Score: **

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for future Shameless release The Sect, and current releases of The Sister of Ursula and Formula for a Murder, before hitting the menu screen.

Of Goats and Boats is a subtitled feature lincensed by Shameless from Cinema Obscura and is a series of interviews with Rosalba Neri and Salvatore Puntillo. Interesting for us and nostalgic for them, I think.

The alternate ending was just stupid, and really, not entirely different.

Whilst I am normally a detractor of stills galleries, this one was OK as it wasn’t just freeze frames from the movie but instead was a selection of promo material for the film, done as a slide show over a portion of the soundtrack.

There is also a trailer park, featuring trailers of The Bronx Warriors Trilogy, Love Goddess of the Cannibals, Satan’s Baby Doll, Beat in Space, New York Ripper, Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh, Cannibal Holocaust, Almost Human, Don’t Torture a Duckling, House on the Edge of the Park, Foir Flies on Grey Velvet, Dellamorte Dellamore, Amsterdamned, The Nurse, Viva, Formula for a Murder, 10th Victim, Contraband, Washing Machine and The Sister of Ursula.

I have to also point out I am a sucker for a reversible sleeve, and this has one as seen above, and another that’s pretty average, but it’s the thought that counts.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I don’t want to seem harsh, but I can’t imagine ever needing to ever watch this film ever again for any reason whatsoever.

Zombi 3 aka Zombie Flesh Eaters 2 (1988) review

One from the re watch pile…
Zombi 3 aka Zombie Flesh Eaters 2 (1988)


Film: I have a very special place in my heart for the work of Lucio Fulci. Why? Because he’s freakin’ AWESOME! I was brought up on some of his films on VHS, specifically The Beyond and City of the Living Dead, and since the advent of DVD and Bluray, I’ve been able to expand my exposure to his work, and even though there are several missteps, and a lot of nutso stuff pumped out of his factory, I have a great affection for it all.

Ok, I’ve gotten the fanboy stuff out of the way, now for the ‘professional’ review, and I’ll point out that even though I like watching his films, I am well aware of the shortcomings of some of them. This film, known as both Zombi 3 and Zombi Flesh Eaters 2, is a real item of its time. It riffs on so many films, such as Return of the Living Dead and The Crazies, but doesn’t have the budget, or talent either in front of the cameras, or tragically behind them.


This film was written by Claudio Fragasso, though IMDB mentions Rossella Drudi who wrote Troll 2, and this is such a dog’s breakfast I see no reason why that wouldn’t be true, but her involvement isn’t the only reason for this film’s confusion. Fulci had a stroke during production, and the directorial reigns were handed to both Fragasso and second unit director Bruno Mattei, who dumped some of Fulci’s 70 minute cut, taking it to 50 minutes, and added 40 minutes of their own footage.

When a toxin is stolen from a research lab, it accidentally infects the thief. The toxic dies once airborne, but when transfer from human to human, via blood, or breath (hang on, isn’t that ‘airborne’?) or saliva, or other gooey, mucusy bits, it turns the infected into a violent, zombie-like crazy.

The original thief is found and his body destroyed by the army in a crematorium, but the doctor’s inform them that this was a stupid idea as the smoke could transfer the virus… You know, airborne (as fire cause it to mutate, obviously)… and infect even more people, or…um… Birds.


*sigh*

… And yes, birds and people are indeed infected and a zombie outbreak happens, as we follow a small group of holiday-makers and on-leave soldiers as they try to survive…

Ok, so there is so much wrong with this film. The cinematography is terrible at some points, one in particular is a car hood mounted camera looking into a windscreen that has a strong reflection on it, completely obscuring the occupant of the vehicle. Some of the dialogue is either completely crap, or ‘borrowed’ directly from Return of the Living Dead, also stolen from ROTLD is the way some of the music cues are presented: actually ROTLD is a source for a lot of the film. Especially fun is the acting… Well, the over-acting. The main Doctor character acts like he is in a Power Rangers outfit: you know what I mean, hands waving around, head wobbling and you know what a William Shatner impersonation sounds like? Well he talks like that!


In spite of, or maybe (probably) because of these reasons it’s actually entertaining. I mean, your mate who loves big budget, world destroying CGI fests is not going to find much here to enjoy, but you spaghetti-loving, Italian film fans are gonna roll their eyes in ecstasy.

Be warned: this isn’t a good film, it’s a fun roller coaster!

Score: **

Format: The film was reviewed as a part of 88 Films’ ‘The Italian Collection’. It is a region B Blu-ray Disc presented in 1.66:1 widescreen with a LPCM 2.0 track, both of which are pretty good.

Score: ****

Extras: Wonderful extras live in this two disc set. The first disc gives us alternate Italian opening and closing sequences, interviews with Dell’acqua (in a piece called Veteren of the Living Dead) MacColl (in a live Q & A with terrible sound), Ring (Zombie Reflections which is more a stills gallery with a voiceover about her career played over it, nothing wrong with that but again, the audio is substandard) and Fragasso, and a trailer reel featuring Children of the Corn, Don’t Go In The Woods, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man, Mother’s Day, Slaughterhouse, Trancers and Splatter University.


The second disc, called ‘Paura: Lucio Fulci Remembered’ is a collection of interviews divided into three sections: Accomplices (his cohorts in the making of his films), Peers (other Italian directors of the period), and Victims (his actors and actresses). It is a nice collection of tributes and anecdotes of the man, and something Fulci fans will enjoy.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s dumb, but it’s fun, so yeah, even though it got a low score, I’d probably watch it again for kicks.